Captain's Log: Ask Cryptic raises questions about STO's future

The future of Star Trek Online comes up a lot in Captain's Log. Whether imagining cool new features or picking apart comments by Executive Producer Daniel Stahl, I ponder STO's tomorrows fairly frequently.

But, hey, it's not my fault the folks at Cryptic Studios talk about the game's near and far future so much, right? Especially with their monthly Ask Cryptic feature, the developers address the game's, er, development all the time. This month's extra-hefty Ask Cryptic offers players a lot of tasty food for thought -- but a forum post I missed last week has given me indigestion.
Not-so-weekly episodes?


Before we get to the fun stuff, I need to vent a little bit. I don't like to end the column on a down note, so let's get this out of the way now.

You might remember that last week's Captain's Log celebrated the finale of STO's inaugural weekly series. The first set of ambitious weekly episodes, meant to emulate the deep storytelling and high adventure of the various Star Trek television series, had pitted the Federation against the cold-hearted Breen, with the fate of the Deferi people -- and maybe all of known space -- hanging in the balance.

Weekly episodes, also known as feature episodes, constituted one of the most hotly anticipated (and hyped) features of Season 2: Ancient Enemies. You might have noticed that I have been super-jazzed about the feature, considering I've devoted two whole columns to the subject.

And then commenter Mike pointed us last week toward a forum post I hadn't bothered to read completely. At first glance, Stahl appears to have tossed up a basic press release for the end of the Breen series, until the final paragraph, in which he offhandedly suggests that maybe weekly episodes won't be around too long.

Wait, what?? "Rest assured," Stahl writes, "we love these featured episodes and plan to keep making them -- at least in the short term." That... doesn't sound good. That sounds terrible!

The whole point of weekly episodes is for them to develop compelling storylines over the course of several weeks. And the developers already need at least a few weeks between series to prep the next one. So with Series 2 set to end in mid-November, and Series 3 going live at least several weeks afterward, what are the odds that we'll even see a fourth series of weekly episodes?

Man, what a downer.

Ask Cryptic


In more pleasant news, Stahl provides STO fans a glimpse of (good) things to come with his latest Ask Cryptic Q&A. This time around, he responds to 29 of what he calls some of the mostly frequently asked questions about STO. In among the fluff and trivia, he offers up a few gems worth a little excitement.

Endgame revamp

Based on Stahl's answers to a few questions, we can expect a serious overhaul of high-level gameplay as part of Season 4.

"I'd like to see better dailies, improved star cluster exploration, and a rethink of the 'get tokens to trade for loot' stores we have now," Stahl says. "In addition, I'd like to see some solid, fun challenges for players who are looking to maximize their character builds." (I don't know what that last part is supposed to mean, so if anyone can help me out, do so in the comments!)

He also doesn't dispute the premise of one question, which intimates that the devs are moving away from Special Task Force missions. Makes sense, I suppose -- when was the last time they released one of those, anyway?

Set items

Stahl announces an item set for release with the upcoming Season 3, and it sounds pretty cool.

"These items are new special rewards for completing the STFs," he says. "These items are thematic Borg components that when equipped on your ship not only provide the stat bonus with the set, but with each item you slot, unique Borg FX and GEO [are] added to your ship model."

Odd that the developers would tie a cool new feature to an older feature that seems to have fallen out of favor. But it's a swell concept all the same.

Crafting and combat

In other overhaul news, Stahl says we can expect changes to ground combat, which he teased in his recent State of the Game letter, sometime around the release of Season 3. The devs have begun internal testing and hope to push the new system, which Stahl says will include free aiming and new melee animations, with or shortly after the Season 3 patch.

Memory Alpha also will receive some (more) love in the form of an item set. Each of the three crafting trees will culminate in the ability to craft one piece of a three-piece set. The update will finally expand crafting to the Klingon Empire, too!

Tholians

Tholians are a classic enemy race, which the developers hope to implement in STO eventually. Yay?

Player housing


One fan asks whether the folks at Cryptic have considered adding housing, such as starbases, for either individuals or fleets. And Stahl says yes!

"This is on our radar for the upcoming year," he says. "We want this feature to be released when we increase the level cap to 61 as a Fleet Admiral level feature. The goal is that it would work in conjunction with fleets and the [user-generated content] tools."

I can just picture the pure awesomeness of pairing player housing and player-created missions. Too bad "the upcoming year" probably means a good long wait.

Mac edition?

Nope.

Paid expansions are for suckers

I think this one surprised a lot of folks. Stahl basically says that Cryptic has no short- or long-term plans to sell an expansion to STO.

"It is unclear if we will ever produce a paid expansion," he says, "as the market is leaning away from expansions and more towards smaller microtransactions. However, if we ever did release a paid expansion, it would be a significant update and add some new functionality to the game that would be deemed worth the price of the release."

What the what? I know some of the people at Cryptic sure are fans of microtransactions, but is the MMO market as a whole falling out of love with "proper" expansions? And no, Cataclysm doesn't count. Blizzard could release three World of Warcraft expansions a year, and people -- myself included -- would lap them up.

Still, while I don't agree with Stahl's stated reasoning, I applaud the sentiment. I don't think the developers have STO in a position yet to justify a paid expansion -- and I suspect Stahl would agree. Much better that the minds at Cryptic focus on delivering the quality content they've already promised, from user-generated content to improved ground combat.

Less trustworthy than a Ferengi loan shark and more useless than a neutered Tribble, Ryan Greene beams Captain's Log straight into your mind every Thursday, filling your brainhole with news, opinions and reckless speculation about Star Trek Online. If you have comments, suggestions for the column or insults too creative for Massively's commenting policy, send a transmission to ryan@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.